Long back I had written a few posts on ragamalikas in Carnatic music and promised that I will write about ragamalikas in films soon. So here is the post, though it is not 'soon' now. (My posts on 'Ragamalikas in Carnatic music Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3)
There are many situations in which ragamalikas are used in films. Today I will concentrate on ragamalikas in bhakthi films. In essence I am going to speak about two things which have almost disappeared from films. Bhakthi films and ragamalikas.
In an earlier era, we have seen a stream of bhakthi and mythological films hit the screens in South India, especially in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh (I think it was the case in Kerala and Karnataka too.) With the changing demographics of the viewers the bhakthi and mythological films lost their allure. In earlier days, film watching was a family exercise. The number of films watched with parents in those days was more than those watched with friends. The mythologies were the genre which could easily bring the family to the theatre. These were 'clean' films and in addition they thought you the value of belief in religion and God. Releasing a bhakthi film during festival season was a sure fire way to success for the producer. With the buying power of the youth increasing and with movies being made for multiplexes, these movies lost their charm. The mythologies / bhakthi genre shifted to the TV. (There are movies of this genre which come out once in a while but they are few and far between.)
The ragamalika has died a silent death in movies. Nowadays with the need for 'catchy' and 'youthful' tunes you cannot expect ragamalikas. The only ragamalikas you get are when the music director accidentally shifts to another raga or to add some spice a song will briefly change the raga. Ragamalikas were used in multiple scenarios: singing on stage, competition between two singers, lovers singing in various locations etc.
Enough of the prelude. Let check out some ragamalikas in mythologies today. In later posts I will cover ragamalikas in love songs and in other scenarios.
People loved to see as many holy places as possible in the movies. Many such holy places were showed as part of song. Since the holy places were many, the song was long and it was a perfect for a ragamalika. The greatness of each holy place will be extolled in one raga. Here are a few examples:
The first song we will hear is from the movie 'Kandan Karunai'. Sung by Seergazhi Govindarajan, the song talks about the six famous temples of Lord Muruga, collectively known as 'arupadai veedu'. K V Mahadevan has set tune to the lyrics of Kannadasan. The master that he was of words, in just two lines Kannadasan casually tells the story of each of these temples. Lovely tune, outstanding lyrics and spirited singing made this song an evergreen one.
If the earlier song was a major hit in Tamilnadu, this song is still heard all over Andhra Pradesh. It is almost like a signature tune for Ghantasala along with the legendary 'Sivasankari'. Lyrics by Arudra and music by Pendyala. Gantasala delivers the song as only he can. This too talks about the singer visiting multiple shrines and each shrine is covered by one raga.
In the late 70s or early 80s, the film 'Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya' was very famous. It was a Malayalam movie which was dubbed in Tamil and was a major hit in Tamil. It had many good tunes. The ragamalika song was 'Shankara Digvijayam'. As the starting words indicate, it is about Adi Shankara visiting multiple shrines. Jesudas is at his peak, words by Bhaskaran and tuned by Dakshinamurthy Swamy, who was a master in composing ragamalikas.
Another standard use of ragamalika was when slokas were recited in praise of the lord and Ghantasala was undoubtedly the master in this genre. Here are two superb sloka recitals of his.
The first one is from 'Kalahasthi Mahatmiyam' which was simultaneously made in Telugu and Kannada. Rajkumar acted as the hero in both the version. (It was called 'Bedara Kannappa' in Kannada). Here too multiple shrines are invoked. Music by R.Sudarsanam and R. Govardanam.
One of the most famous slokas recited in Telugu films must be 'Manikya Veena' in the film 'Mahakavi Kalidasa'. The sloka of Kalidasa is set to music by Pendyala.
A sage or Narada walking around singing about the Lord was one more situation which came in handy for tuning ragamalikas. Here is Sivaji Ganesan as Naradar from the film 'Saraswathi Sabadham'. Lyrics of Kannadasan, tuned by K V Mahadevan and sung by T M Soundarrajan, this is an iconic song.
One area where ragamalika is used a lot are dance songs. I am just giving one sample here. I will write more about them in another post. This ragamalika is from the film 'Narthanasala'. The film deals with the Pandavas 'agnyatha vasam' period. Sung by Ghantasala and Janaki, this is a lovely ragamalika composed by S.Dakshinamurthy (He is different from Dakshinamurthy Swamy, who was a Malayalam composer). Words by Samudrala.
Finally two versions of the same song. This is a straightforward devotional sung in Ragamalika. From 'Kalahasthi Mahatmyam' and 'Bedara Kannappa'. Two different singers singing the same song.
First, Ghantasala singing 'madhuram siva manthram'. Lyrics of Toleti. Music by Sudarsanam & Goverdhanam
The Kannada version of the song from the movie 'Bedara Kannappa'. Sung by C.S.Jayaraman. Words by S.Nanjappa. Music by Sudarsanam & Goverdhanam. ( C.S.Jayaraman was a Tamil singer. So you can hear the Tamil accent a bit in the singing.)
As an exercise, you can try and figure out the ragas in each of the ragamalikas.